"X" is for Xenophobe

Fear: A feeling of alarm or disquiet caused by awareness or expectation of danger.

by Robert Nanninga
ecently a friend of mine confided to me that she was having certain conservative feelings. My friend was beginning to see wisdom in Proposition 187, and Operation Gatekeeper was starting to make sense to her, and boy she was worried. Trying to talk her down from the ledge of shame, I was able to convince her she was, in fact, not possessed by the Newt of Elections Past.
After giving my friend a plethora of assurances that she was not a racist, I asked her to tell me what was really bothering her and what had brought this up. San Diego's growing population was her answer.
One wishes that the folks invading San Diego for their Republican love-fest had such noble concerns. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a Xenophobe is someone who is unduly fearful or contemptuous of strangers or foreigners. That, my friends, is what the whole 187 squabble is about: people worried that some illegal is going to take their job, their health care or their child's place in the classroom. Pete Wilson is stroking the fires of this paranoia while patriots from the United States are lighting up the border and clamoring for tighter controls.
Please note that I did not say Americans, because whether we like it or not, our neighbors south of the border are Americans. Just to drive my point home, let me remind you that Canadians, Costa Ricans and Brazilians are Americans as well. This I know because as I write this a Brazilian woman is practicing the flamenco on the patio. Give me your tired, your poor, and your exotic dancers.
Isn't funny how we don't worry about the Scottish Software Engineer, the Romania gymnastic coach, or the Austrian bodybuilder-turned-movie star? Give us your tired, your technology, and your taxable masses.
If the United States wants to stop immigration, we need to stop all immigration; that is only one way to protect the shrinking job market. Another way to prevent the loss of jobs in this country is to prohibit U.S. businessmen from moving their operations overseas to exploit under-educated workers. It is their way to avoid unions, environmental regulations and child welfare laws. If you doubt the latter, just ask Kathie Lee Gifford - she's still reeling from the truth.
Newt Gingrich and others are clamoring for English to be declared the official language because schools that teach more than one language are "destroying" America. Could it be that Newt is too caught up in his own self importance to recognize the strength of diversity? It is Ironic that a professional historian needs to be reminded that this country has always prided itself as the great melting pot of immigration. Newt and his apostles claim that immigrants who come to America should learn the language. Sorry Mr. Gingrich; if that were the case, your Contract With America would have been given in Onandaga.
We need not cross international borders to find alternative ways of being. Xenophobia is also about fear of those who are different than you. Case in point: the Republican Party's fear of same gender marriages. Claiming moral superiority, they have decided that state and federally recognized unions are a special right reserved for heterosexuals. To justify this position, they worry about how gay and Lesbian marriages would undermine the sanctity of the most holy of unions.
At this point, someone needs to explain to me how gay relationships were responsible for the failure of Bob Dole's first marriage, and how they factored into Newt Gingrich's decision to leave his cancer-stricken first wife. If you want to start placing blame for the failure of marriage in America, you have only one place to look, and that is in the heterosexual community. If I am not mistaken, interracial marriages were illegal once upon a time. What was once considered abhorrent by a racist paradigm is now commonplace. Marriage and family wasn't destroyed by allowing blacks and white to marry, nor will it be destroyed by recognizing the union of two men or two women.
Diversity is something we should find strength in, yet we allow it to separate us time and time again. Black, white, gay, straight, rich, poor, conservative, liberal, tall, short, fat, thin, young and old. It seems that the "us against everybody else" mentality is taken root, with intolerance and hate growing at an alarming rate. This year at the Republican convention there are going to be a lot of people demanding to be heard. A wide range of ideologies will be represented on both sides of the political spectrum. I just hope that the RNC and their good time girl, Susan Golding, will not try to stifle the voices of those asking for change.
The world's attention will be focused on San Diego for a few days this month, so let's not blow it. Violence is not the answer. If we are upset with Republican policies, we must insure that our message is clear and concise without the superficial rhetoric that broadcast media encourages. Nonviolent demonstrations are useful tools in getting your message out. If this includes having to march without permits, so be it. Somehow I don't think Ghandi waited to get clearance from city hall when he wanted to make a point.
So please, let us all go into what could be a very historic moment for San Diego and the world with an unshakable commitment to diversity and nonviolence. Democracy is all about being heard, even when your elected officials wish you would shut up and go away. Look for me at the convention site: I will be the one representing the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, with or without the blessings of the Bob, Pete and Susan Show.
Rodney King asked, "Why can't we all just get along?" I tell you why: because just like the other primates, the alpha-male gets ugly when he feels threatened. In the case of the "not so" United States of America, the alpha-male is most often the Republican straight, white, corporate or property-owning elite, and they're not going to give up without a fight, even if that means destroying the nest along with the rest of us in the process. I say, there is room for all of us at the table, and a different paradigm is desperately needed. So if Bubba and all his hunting buddies are feeling a little threatened, all I can say is good, it is about time.

Robert Nanninga is an independent video producer, actor, vegan and active member of the Green and environmental communities.